SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)– Sequoia Kemp has felt a calling to helping other women since a young age. After all, she was only 13 when she first helped deliver a baby.
Raised by her mother Vickie Patterson, a longtime doula, Kemp herself is now also a doula for women in Syracuse’s South Side community. Since the first delivery she’s helped in, Kemp has founded both Doula4aQueen and the Sankofa Center for Reproductive Health and Healing to focus on helping pregnant women of color in on their birthing journey.
Leeandra Torrance, a full-spectrum doula at the Sankofa Center, said their work provides support for pregnant people before, during and after their pregnancy.
“I love educating the women on their bodies, and what they’re going to be going through, and just letting them know that when they are in the hospital, they have a voice,” Torrance said.
Patterson says a significant part of this focus results from the increased mortality rate among women of color during birth. Black women are over three times more likely to die in childbirth and postpartum than white women according to the Population Reference Bureau.
“When a woman says, ‘I want a doula because I don’t want to die’, that’s like sounding an alarm,” Patterson said. “Like why is a woman even thinking like that? When you get pregnant you just want to have a healthy baby and a safe delivery…but for some women, that’s not what they’re focusing on. They just want to not die.”
Kemp does not limit her focus to those currently pregnant, however. The Sankofa Center offers free virtual classes to women and families in the area, but one of Kemp’s best inventions is her “wellness room,” a center where families in the Southside Syracuse area can come for needs all donated by the community.
“Being able to say you need baby clothes? We got baby clothes. You need diapers? We got diapers! You know, like being able to see moms light up or parents or families light up and say oh okay this is one less thing they have to worry about, that’s definitely one of my favorite things about it all,” Kemp said.